Trade Deadline wish lists for top contenders

July 27th, 2019

With the summer swap season whittled down to a single Trade Deadline -- Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET -- general managers have apparently embraced a flair for the dramatic. A slow-moving market is heading into what could be a frantic few final days, as there remains a long list of obvious needs among contenders.

One last time before Deadline day, let’s explore those needs. We have to draw the line somewhere, so these are the 14 clubs that FanGraphs is giving at least a 20 percent chance of reaching the playoffs* and what they are -- or ought to be -- looking for, in order of urgency.

*The surging Giants are still below 10 percent, and we’ll list some of their trade chips below just in case they get compelled to change course again in the coming days.

1) Brewers: Starting pitching

Even if it doesn’t appear anybody’s going to run away with the National League Central, the Brewers might struggle to keep pace with the Cubs and Cardinals if they don’t make a pitching move of some sort.

The loss of both Brandon Woodruff and Jhoulys Chacin to oblique injuries this week only further amplifies an already existing rotation need and threatens to overtax a bullpen that is ordinarily a team strength but has a 6.10 ERA in July. Maybe the Brew Crew instead goes after bullpen depth, but the rotation is the most obvious area to address.

Potential fits: Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Mike Minor, Madison Bumgarner, Matthew Boyd, Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, others

2) Nationals: Bullpen help

Maybe you can win a World Series with a relief ERA of almost 6.00, but, uh, probably best not to try.

With GM Mike Rizzo having dipped into the system quite a bit within this window of contention in Washington, it will be interesting to see what he can pull off at this Deadline. Perhaps the Nats can be a club that improves by taking on some significant salary.

Potential fits: Kirby Yates, Edwin Diaz, Will Smith, Felipe Vazquez, Ken Giles, Shane Greene, Ian Kennedy, Shawn Kelley, Chris Martin, Alex Colome, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson, Mychal Givens, Austin Brice, Nick Anderson, others

3) Phillies: Starting pitching

The needs have been a moving target for a Phillies team that’s had a rollercoaster season, but the rotation has been a pretty consistent issue here, especially with Jake Arrieta having lost effectiveness while pitching with an iffy elbow.

The improved play of late increases the odds of Philadelphia doing something interesting at the Deadline, as the club already took an all-in approach to 2019 with its wild winter.

Potential fits: See Brewers list

4) Yankees: Starting pitching

You wouldn’t expect a team in the lower-third in MLB in quality starts to be on a 105-win pace. But we should know by now that the ordinary rules somehow don’t apply to the Yankees.

Still, with Luis Severino having not thrown a pitch this season, there’s no obvious choice here for a Game 1 assignment, and the rotation is in a major rut right now. The Yankees, trying to avoid going a decade without a World Series appearance for the first time since the pre-Babe Ruth era, have rightly been in persistent pursuit of a controllable arm with sizzling stuff.

Potential fits: See Brewers list (but if we know how the Mets operate, you can probably forget about Thor here)

5) Rays: Pitching

Blake Snell’s arthroscopic elbow surgery is a big bummer for a Rays team that was already reeling in recent weeks. With Tampa Bay’s only realistic path to the postseason now the coin-flip Wild Card Game, it would be surprising to see a team so careful about the management of its controllable assets make a super-aggressive move. But with the rotation depth chart down to Charlie Morton and … Charlie Morton, the rotation is a clear need, and bullpen depth has been a need here all along.

Potential fits: See Brewers and Nationals lists

6) Twins: Bullpen help

 A division lead that was once gaudy (as high as 11 1/2 games) is now gaunt, and the bullpen has been bleeding runs and bodies of late. In the last two weeks, Minnesota has designated four relievers for assignment.

The Twins do have some interesting arms in their system who are probably going to get a tryout at the big league level down the stretch (and they added veteran Cody Allen on a Minors deal), but a proven commodity would sure help a club trying to nail down its first division title in nearly a decade.

Potential fits: See Nationals list

7) Dodgers: Bullpen help

The Dodgers are obviously in no danger of missing October, but there’s an argument for putting them No. 1 on this list given that they’ve lost the last two World Series and (a la the 2016 Cubs) should leave nothing to chance. This is no time to get cute!

While it’s true that the L.A. ‘pen could be bolstered by guys left off the October rotation (Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling, perhaps), there are enough questions about closer Kenley Jansen and setup man Joe Kelly that a reinforcement is in order.

Potential fits: See Nationals list

8) Indians: A right-handed bat

Whether or not the Indians actually take the unusual step of trading their best starting pitcher (Trevor Bauer) in the middle of a division race, bringing in a right-handed stick for the outfield and/or infield (as a platoon mate for second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has labored against lefties) is a must.

The Indians beat up on a bunch of sub-.500 clubs to get back into contention, but their lineup will need bolstering as the schedule gets more difficult and the race with the Twins hits the home stretch.

Potential fits: Yasiel Puig, Nicholas Castellanos, Clint Frazier, others

9) Cubs: Better bench depth

While we could list the Cubs as yet another team in need of bullpen help (because it’s true), a noticeable difference between the 2019 Cubs and past Joe Maddon-managed clubs is the inability to rest and rotate players. The below-average production from Daniel Descalso, Albert Almora Jr., David Bote and the recently optioned Addison Russell has hurt the cause and created a need for a plug-and-play type.

Potential fit: Eric Sogard

10) Cardinals: Left-handed bullpen help

The Cards’ much-improved recent play could/should compel the front office into action, and there’s little question where they need the most help. Manager Mike Shildt told reporters earlier this week that his bullpen was running “on fumes,” with closer Carlos Martinez taking on a particularly worrisome workload given his shoulder issues in recent seasons.

So the Cards have a bullpen need in general, but particularly from the left-hand side, as they designated Chasen Shreve for assignment this week and need a companion for Andrew Miller.

Potential fits: Vazquez, Smith, Watson, Francisco Liriano, Jake McGee, Jake Diekman, others

11) Braves: Pitching

Austin Riley’s swift fall from grace after a sizzling start to his rookie year could compel the Braves to nab an outfield bat (or call up Adam Duvall), but pitching -- in the rotation, the bullpen or both -- has long been assumed to be the area of emphasis for Atlanta at this Deadline, and that hasn’t really changed.

The Braves have what every organization covets: depth in young arms. That could move the needle in just about any trade discussion, depending on how aggressive Alex Anthopolous and Co. want to get.

Potential fits: See Brewers and Nationals lists

12) Astros: Starting pitching

Houston definitely could use a back-end-of-the-rotation boost to follow Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley. But with the division title all but in hand and pitching staffs boiled down to their absolute best parts come October, it’s hard to paint that need as a definite prerequisite to a World Series run.

That said, yes, Houston is in the market for an arm, preferably one under control for 2020 should Cole walk in free agency.

Potential fits: See Brewers list

13) A’s: Pitching help

This could be a sleeper squad in the market for a controllable starter, because Billy Beane has been known to surprise us in the past, and the A’s have one of the best records in baseball, going back to early June.

Oakland already swung a deal for Homer Bailey, but higher-impact help for either the front of the rotation (with Frankie Montas suspended) or the back end of the bullpen (where Blake Treinen has struggled) is in order.

Potential fits: See Brewers and Nationals lists

14) Red Sox: Bullpen help

This sure looked like a major need a year ago, but the Red Sox proved us wrong by using starters in relief roles to get through October. But the bullpen is an even bigger concern this year, and the rotation isn’t as strong.

Because the Red Sox aren’t likely to raid the farm system and take on major salary, the biggest bullpen addition they will make this month has already happened with the return of a healthy Nathan Eovaldi. We’re putting them last on the list because the reigning World Series champs shouldn’t have to feel the urgency others might.

Potential fits: See Nationals list